Ad description

a. A pre-roll video ad for the certificate 15 film “Paranormal Activity - The Ghost Dimension”, seen on 21 October 2015, on the Mail Online website, before a clip relating to the boy band One Direction.

b. The same ad was seen on a playlist of pre-selected Disney and music lyric videos accessed via the Vevo app on an Apple TV.


The complainant, who believed the ads appeared before content likely to appeal to children, challenged whether the ads were responsibly targeted.


Paramount Pictures said they had instructed their agency to deliver the ad campaign to an audience aged between 15 and 24 years and to ensure that the campaign would not be delivered on websites or channels primarily targeted at children. They advised that the agency used a media buyer to deliver the campaign using technology which determined whether to serve an ad based on the demographics of the audience that visited the platform and the online profile of the viewer, including their age. They explained that the age profile was determined through account details provided by third parties or by looking at the internet activity of an individual. They stated that the technology could not personally identify individual users.

Paramount Pictures said that ad (a) was likely to have appered on the Daily Mail website because it had a high proportion of visitors within the target age range and that visitors to the website were identified from their online user profile as being aged over 15 years.

Associated News said that they did not consider the Mail Online website, which contained topical current affairs content, to be targeted towards children.

Paramount Pictures said for ad (b) the play list was not curated by either Vevo or Paramount Pictures. They said that the campaign was delivered by targeting specific artists which they considered to be popular with their target audience. Paramount Pictures provided a list of artists to the ASA which their agency had approved for the ad to run on related video content. They said that the ad was likely to have run on videos which featured in the playlist that had been created by the complainant. They explained that the ad was likely to have been served before a Vevo video because the artist in the video indexed highly against the target age range for the campaign. In addition, Paramount explained that the ad was only served to users identified as 15 years or older through being signed into the app through Facebook, Google or Apple TV (which required a date of birth), and that the complainant had been identified from the Vevo app login details for Apple TV as being aged 15 years or older. They said that parental controls that could have prevented the ad from being shown were available on the Apple TV device.


Not upheld

We understood that the ad was for a certificate 15 film. We noted that the ad contained screams of a young girl who appeared to be possessed, with visuals that suggested supernatural activity and atmospheric music. We considered that the ad was serious in tone and that, while it would not cause fear or distress to older people (including the target demographic of 15- to 24-year-olds), it was unsuitable for display before content under 15s were likely to be watching.

We understood that Paramount Pictures utilised a targeting strategy where the ad was served on music content that had been shown to be popular with 15 to 24-year-olds. Examples of artists used to target consumers included One Direction, Beyoncé and Selena Gomez. We noted that the ad was further targeted by only being served to those with an online profile that indicated they were over the age of 15.

We understood that ad (a) appeared before a clip about the popular boyband One Direction. Although we acknowledged that the group were popular with people of various ages, including under 15s, we considered that the Mail Online contained current affairs content that was not likely to appeal to children, and that ad (a) had therefore not been irresponsibly targeted before that clip on the site.

We understood ad (b) was served before videos in a playlist that the complainant had created within her own Apple account. We understood that her playlist was likely to have been targeted because it featured videos by the selected artists and because she was signed into her Apple TV account which indicated she was over 15. We noted that the ad had appeared before videos from artists who would be popular with people of various ages, including under 15s, but that they appealed primarily to the target demographic of 15- to 24-year-olds. As such, we did not consider that the ad was placed within content specifically aimed at children or likely to appeal to them particularly.

For those reasons, we concluded that the ads had not been irresponsibly targeted.

We investigated the ad under CAP Code (Edition 12) rules  1.3 1.3 Marketing communications must be prepared with a sense of responsibility to consumers and to society.  (Responsible advertising) and  4.2 4.2 Marketing communications must not cause fear or distress without justifiable reason; if it can be justified, the fear or distress should not be excessive. Marketers must not use a shocking claim or image merely to attract attention.  (Harm and Offence) but did not find it in breach.


No further action necessary.

CAP Code (Edition 12)

1.3     4.2    

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